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Hello, I want to show two images of mine dealing with the current problems of human society.
The first ("Consumer Society") shows a consequence of consumerism all over the globe and the second ("Information Overload") represents, in my opinion, another topic which equally affects people all over the world -- information overload.
Plenty to go into here, about the reasons for such prolific plastic usage and disposal, When I was a child, my mother used a wicker basket for her shopping, loose potatoes would go in the bottom with a layer of newspaper above and below, then maybe carrots or onions on top of that. Milk arrived in bottles which were returned every day to be sterilised and reused. Today, all those things come in plastic bags, wrappings or containers. Why?
I must say, I'm a bit surprised that Robert thinks humans are big and bad enough to do serious damage to the environment.
Well, I totally agree with both of you, but according to some people these things, plastic bottles, bags etc. as well as a plenty of products in supermarkets and stores represent nothing but Progress...maybe it is progress for this generation of people, but for our kids and future generations it is clearly something else...
It's a matter of observing the proper scale of threats in relation to their proportionate effects to the various living systems of the planet. We can demonize anything, when our sense of these proportions is out of whack.
On the scale of human generations, plastic is a solid, while air is a fluid. On this same scale, air flows, while plastic grows.
Here's what can happen, when we get it wrong in this respect (^_^):
You could do another one of those, Robert, with an overlay showing how humans have got up to producing 26 gigatons of CO2 from burning fossil fuels each year. Of course, you'd have to extend the vertical scale to 40 or 50 times its current height to fit it all on, once you add the linear extrapolation at the end for future levels (which is about as probable as a linear extrapolation of population increase up to 16 billion by 2100 .... it is scary to think, though, that if the population increase to around 10bn as the UN expects by 2050, they'll then could well start telling us we have to find even more ways of producing food to allow us to have 16 billion people by 2100. Kinda like that virus that keeps going until it wipes out its means of sustenance).
A huge number of people is only a part of the problem I think. Their collective activity and behaviour, especially if they are manipulated by mass media, internet, various ideologies etc. can do more harm to the environment than anything else.
We are all responsible for the pollution and we should start doing something about it. Scientists should concentrate more on this issue instead of producing worthless scientific papers year by year.
Scientists research stuff and write papers, that's their job. Without those papers we would know very little. It's up to the politicians to create policies based on the papers and up to people to do what seems reasonable given what they know.
Scientists are paid to do research and to publish their results in scientific journals. However, they are under pressure to publish as much as possible during a year. This pressure considerably reduces the quality of research in general. In other words, they can publish whatever they want (even fabricated results if they have to) as long as they are convincing enough that their "research" is somehow relevant for a specific area.
You know the huge debris garbage islands in the ocean? I have never once seen one with a wide angle view of ship, horizon, and garbage in the same photo to give a sense of scale.
I've got no doubt that there are rafts of garbage in locations like the Sargasso Sea, but I wonder how realistically the problem is being portrayed. Your photo doesn't impress me in the slightest. I abhor littering, and I believe in recycling, where it's economical. But modern packaging saves lives. Did you know that those cloth bags are costing human lives because they get contaminated with food spillage, and people don't know to wash them frequently, and they cause food poisoning deaths? Modern packaging is often excessive, but we don't use pickle barrels anymore for good reasons.
Gregory, good point. It's funny that you should mention cloth grocery bags, because I thought the same thing. In San Jose, where I recently lived, plastic was outlawed. However, I cringed whenever I saw those cloth bags, because to me they were germ carriers! Ewww. Who ever gets around to washing a cloth bag, anyway? I used paper bags that I could put in the recycle bin after a few loads. I do think the plastic bags were excessive, though, and I wasn't too sorry to see them go. But we have to pack our groceries in something. Is paper the best option?
Paul C. - "You could do another one of those, Robert, with an overlay showing how humans have got up to producing 26 gigatons of CO2 from burning fossil fuels each year. Of course, you'd have to extend the vertical scale to 40 or 50 times its current height to fit it all on, once you add the linear extrapolation at the end for future levels (which is about as probable as a linear extrapolation of population increase up to 16 billion by 2100 .... it is scary to think, though, that if the population increase to around 10bn as the UN expects by 2050, they'll then could well start telling us we have to find even more ways of producing food to allow us to have 16 billion people by 2100. Kinda like that virus that keeps going until it wipes out its means of sustenance).
Remember I wrote, "It's a matter of observing the proper scale of threats in relation to their proportionate effects to the various living systems of the planet."
Well, let's put things in proportion here:
CO2 released yearly by HUMAN ACTIVITIES ..................... 29,000,000,000 tons
CO2 released yearly by NATURAL DECAY and FOREST FIRES ...... 439,000,000,000 tons (15 times MORE CO2 than human activities)
TOTAL weight of Earth's atmosphere ................... 5,700,000,000,000,000 tons
Natural processes release 152 times MORE CO2 into Earth's atmosphere than human activities release. But many of us have come to classify CO2 as a "pollutant".
Human activities release 5 ten millionths of Earth's total atmospheric weight in CO2 each year. MILLIONTHS! We, therefore, are still NOT as big as we think in this regard.
According to the figures you've published there, Robert, fires and decay produce 15.1 times as much CO2 as humans, not 152x as much. Whatever the figure may be, it remains a fact that natural carbon sinks cannot soak up all the CO2 being produced, whereas they have been able to in the past, and the CO2 released from burning fossil fuels exceeds the imbalance in the carbom cycle. Therefore, human activity alone accounts for the observed changes in the composition of the atmosphere.
If you would look at the big picture instead of trying to break everything down into trivial little comparisons that may look impressive to some people but mean absolutely nothing by themselves, then you might start to understand what is going on.
CO2 is NOT the pollution. Human bodies are the pollution, because of the sheer number of us demanding CO2-emitting support in transporting all our bodies and in feeding all our bodies via civilized, mass-produced agriculture, which demands drastically changing land-use patterns to obliterate what some might call the normal respiration of the planet, where CO2 is plant food used in photosynthesis.
But, ... oh ..., it is politically incorrect to call human bodies pollution, since "it is written" that humans shall have dominion over the Earth. Consequently, we call CO2 "pollution", thereby passing the buck to an innocent player in the ecosystem.
How about legislating body caps instead of carbon caps, or how about legislating negative birth credits instead of carbon credits. Let's put the blame where it really is and argue about THIS reality.
Fewer people would mean that fewer people could drive SUVs until the next ice age, use plastic 24/7 for everything, buy a new TV or the latest techno gizmo every year and throw away the "old" one, chop down the nearest woodlands to build a house, use one side of a two-sided piece of paper snobbishly for an entire life span, ... in short, consume until their little consumer hearts were content, and Earth would still have the required space and time to "breathe" and recycle it all.
But with billions upon billions of us trying to do this, and more still to come, ... nope, this cannot last. And those of us in developed countries who have already had our shots at this level of refined living now get to say, "Okay, we've had our first phase of industrialization and stunk up the world and learned our lessons to change, but the rest of you underdeveloped, only-now-emerging industrialized nations cannot have YOUR shots at OUR mistakes, so we want to control you and forbid YOUR further development. We want to keep our fat-cat, world-soiling ways in tact, but we want to limit YOURs, because we got here first, and it was OUR world to mess up first, and you youngsters cannot have a chance to learn from YOUR mistakes or to grow wiser in your own evolutionary cycles.
We now have the automatic right to control you, expecting you (in your young phase of development) to match us (in our advanced phase of development) in terms of cleanliness consciousness and cleanliness control. We cannot really be expected to limit our own population growth, but we darn well expect YOU to or, at least, to stay at a level of consumption where your industrial activities cannot stink up the world any further. We had our shots at using coal, but we frown on YOUR use of it. We had our shots at using fossil fuels, but we frown on YOUR use of it. We did our parts to increase CO2 in the atmosphere, but we frown on YOUR evolving technology's increases in CO2. I mean look at us, our emissions are improving, and yours are only getting more and more out of control. Shame on you, children, we just cannot allow this. We have a right to stunt your growth, because WE are the chosen ones."
Okay, that's a bit dramatic, but you get the idea. We harp on human-caused climate change, fossil fuel overuse, and resource over consumption, when our primary harping should be on excessive population numbers, and we should be leading BY EXAMPLE in this area, NOT leading by attempted political rule in other areas that clearly stem directly from population numbers.